Words of Love

This little piece is a bit pedantic; it’s on education, from the British end. I heard a lady on the radio talking rather sensibly about it, but she said at one point: ‘I had an education myself, so I knew that the word education comes from the Latin e out and ducere to lead. So education should be leading out, drawing out, what is in the‑child already.’ This derivation from the Latin e‑ducere is quite a common idea. But it was answered irritably by a scholar: ‘Madam. I regret to tell you that our word education does not come from the Latin e‑ducere, to lead out. The English word from e‑ducere is education, which does indeed mean leading out. But education comes from the Latin educare, meaning to educate or train. On this point, we can consid­er a remark by Iida: ‘The words of love are not always kindly words.’

Let us look at a specific case. Suppose that I have never been healthy, and my general physical condition is getting worse and worse. No serious illness yet, but I recognize that I have really got to do something about it. My life situation demands that I get well quick. So I put myself in the hands of an. expert, who gives me a programme which includes an early morning run followed by a cold shower, and all sorts of restrictions on diet and late nights. The body grumbles: ‘Oh no, I can’t stand this’ or ‘Oh not that again!’ and ‘Can’t we have just one day off’ and so on. The programme has to be imposed on the body, imposed by force. The body finds it hateful. But the basis is love, and after a few months the body is grateful for the new vigour and zest in physical movement. There is a Japanese poem that says if the mother loves the child, then when she slaps the child it is right, and when she gives it a sweet it is right, and when she ignores it it is right, and when she makes a fuss of it, that too is right. But if it is a stepmother who secretly hates the child, then when she slaps it, it is wrong; when she gives it a sweet, it is wrong; when she ignores it that is wrong; and when she makes a fuss of it, that too is wrong.

We have to realize that life cannot be always easy and pleasant. Suppose there is a child very talented musically, studying the piano under a good teacher. It is not going to be always pleasant. He wants to play, it is true, but not scales. He wants to play the waltzes of Strauss of Gungl, but not Bach or Beethoven. (In my time it was jazz that was new and fascinating.) Some force has to be used, but that force is based on insight and love not of the unformed taste of the child, but of the talent that is awaiting development.

© Trevor Leggett





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